Resources for Writers & Journalists
I know there are a lot of these lists out there and I’m not claiming this is comprehensive but I wanted to include a catch all area for book recommendations, useful links and resources based on my own personal experience. I know over the years I’ve read numerous lists on-line and hoovered up their recommendations. I hope this will be useful to some of you.
I’m starting off with a good old fashioned book list. There are times when a book does the job better than a link or website ever could. Websites can seem to be a bit ephemeral when it comes to information (yes, I’m aware of the irony of writing that on a website). It’s so easy to update and change digital information and for getting facts fast, as long as you know the reputable sources, the Internet is the place to go. However, I can’t imagine not having a reference bookcase beside my desk with a somewhat eclectic mix that changes from time to time depending on what I’m working on. At the moment there’s a copy of The Anarchist’s Handbook (left over from research on Devil) and several books on fairytales (for something completely different). What follows isn’t an exhaustive list but I’ve tried to include books that I come back to again and again and that always stay on the shelf. There”s a mix of essential texts and works more for inspiration but that’s the way I have them and that’s the way I use them. I hope it’s some use.
Invaluable advice on everything not covered by the punctuation book. If you want to know about what words should be capitalised, correct abbreviations and the rest this is where to find it. A very handy book indeed.
One of the best primers for journalists on all matters of the law that concern them in their daily work. It covers UK law but is still a good grounding if you work in Ireland as there are so many similarities.
I will always argue in favour of shorthand. In this day and age when recording has got so easy it’s hard to imagine why a journalist needs it but trust me there are always places where you can’t record and when you can’t shorthand’s your only man. Teeline is the easiest to learn and this is aimed specifically at journos and comes with a CD for home study.
An A-Z of Irish Scandals. A valuable primer of scandals from Ansbacher to Zoe. If you need reminding about the roots of any tribunals or past scandals this is the book for you. It badly needs updating though. The years since it’s publication have been pretty lively and there’s enough for several appendixes at this stage. An excellent primer though, if like me, you missed the “story so far” aspect of some of the longer running cock ups.
The IPA Yearbook isn’t cheap (it’s around €80) but it’s worth it if you can stretch to it if you’re working as a journalist in Ireland. Every state body, interest group or business group you might want to talk to in one place with full contact details. Also has details of press and broadcast companies.
The Writers and Artists Yearbook is an essential resource for all the names and addresses you will need as a professional writer. There’s the Writer’s Yearbook as well but I’ve always been a Writers & Artists girl. This is where you find all the contact details to anyone who can publish or represent you. It also contains very informative articles. There’s a lot of information available online on this area but the Yearbook is still a must.
This is probably less than useful if you’re a journalist but for fiction, if you’re stuck for an idea sit down with this book for an hour. A resource of myths, legends and fairytales and a lot else besides. I warn you though, once you pick this up you’ll get lost in the cross referencing. You can lose days with this book but it will usually have what you’re looking for.
If you are serious about writing a book, any book, this is a great place to start. Written by agent Carole Blake of the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency it’s full of straight forward, honest advice about the professional side of writing a book.
Stephen King’s excellent book on the craft of being a writer. A fascinating read, packed full of sound advice. I was late reading this and have been kicking myself ever since I sat down to read it. A must read.
No, it’s not by Cecilia Ahern. This book, which was first published in 1983, is subtitled Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. The author, Lewis Hyde makes a passionate defence for creativity in a mercenary world. An inspiring read for anyone who writes, or paints, or sings or whatever. And just as relevant as when it was first published.
This book has been around for a while but it’s still relevant. Ethics are something that I don’t think get discussed enough in journalism courses. The course I did gave them only a cursory glance. But ethics are still important and as journalism changes they’re probably even more important. This book is a good starting place for the major issues.
An excellent guide to the written word for journalists and writers. Full of advice for writing clean, fluid copy or prose. Even if you work with words every day books like this can be a great refresher course. If you’re just starting out it’s vital.
Because there are times when you need to know exactly that the neck bone is connected to. Whether you’re trying to make sense of very medical post mortem evidence or writing a scene in a hospital this is is a very handy book to have.
A recent publication but one that’s going to be a permanent fixture I think. A hilarious collection of 200 ways to make sure you never end up in print. Great for light relief when you’re stuck with a mountain of editing to do!
This is in no way an exhaustive list and it’s one that needs to be added to and updated in parts. It’s an eclectic mixture in no particular order (much as they tend to be arranged on my bookshelves). I hope you find something to interest you and feel free to comment on the selection!
I also want to include some links to useful on-line resources and ports of information. Once again I’ll be adding sites that I’ve found to be useful in the past so it won’t be an exhaustive list. The list will have a distinctly Irish flavour but I’ll flag sites that have a more general relevance. Some of the sites may seem obvious (especially in the journalism section) but I wanted to cater for all levels of experience.
[As of March 2014 I realise this section needs to be overhauled – who knew so much would change between now and 2009! I’m on it now so bare with me. Any suggestions to links I might have missed will be gratefully received in the comments.}
BBC On-line Styleguide An invaluable resource for radio. This is the style guide used by the BBC newsroom in a handy alphabetical list. I know when you’re on air there’s never time to check things but it’s worth browsing when you do have time. There’s a lot here and it’s freely available.
NUJ Rate for the Job Service If you’re starting out as a freelance it’s very difficult to know what you should be charging. If you’re an Irish freelance you can’t even ask the union for advice because of ridiculous Competition Authority rules. Thanks to the London Freelance branch of the Union however, some information is available and it’s here. If you’re freelance share you’re rates with Rate for the Job. It’s solid gold information.
Lexis Nexis The on-line archive for magazines, journals and all manner of articles. Subscription based but as of recently can be accessed free from Dublin City Library computers if you’re in Ireland.
Specific to Ireland
On-line Version of the Constitution There are other searchable versions of the Constitution but I wanted to make sure this was an up to date version. So Dept of the Taoiseach it is.
Oireachtas.ie Does what it says on the tin. This is the website for the Oireachtas – both houses of the Irish parliament. This is a very comprehensive site and very handy for finding pieces of legislation – all the current Acts can be found here, as well as a database of Dail deputies and just about anything you could be looking for in terms of official business.
Irish Media Contact On-line Directory This is a paid for service but the Media Contacts Directory has long been the most comprehensive directory of Irish media contacts and it’s now available on-line. If you can stretch to it it’s highly recommended.
Garda Siochana Has all the press releases on-line plus email links to the press office.
Thoms Commercial Directory Once again not a free resource but if you can stretch to it the Thoms Directory is now available on-line. If you’re not familiar with Thoms it’s a listing of addresses in the main cities as well as counties Louth, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow with details of who lives there. A very useful thing to know indeed.
The Press Council of Ireland & the Office of the Press Ombudsman Has details of all complaints dealt with as well as publications and press releases on-line.
The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland Has on-line versions of the complaints bulletin with details of which ads were complained about and why as well as whether the complaint was upheld. Good for a slow news day!
Office of the Information Commissioner Has links contact details for information officers as well as a fees list and information about the process and adjudications by the ombudsman. Freedom of Information might be expensive to apply for if you’re a freelance but it’s a basic tool to have.
Kildarestreet.com A new site which offers access to Dail debates including all written questions and answers. Definitely one to keep an eye on.
Dictionary.com A comprehensive online dictionary with a lot more besides.
Writers.net One of the largest forums for writers. Also a database of writers, publishers, editors and agents.
The Writers Room BBC’s facility for scriptwriters. Forums, tips and opportunities to submit work as well. They are after all, always on the lookout for new talent.
Writers and Artists The official site for the Writers & Artists Yearbook. Loads of resources for writers and a database of email contacts for publishers and agents. Not an exhaustive list (they still have to sell the book after all) but a damn good resource.
The Burryman Writers Centre An impressive resource with information and links for writers around the world as well as freelance job opportunities.
Absolute Write Water Cooler An extensive forum for writers. Recommended.
National Union of Journalists I’ve always been a firm believer in unions and in the current economic climate collective bargaining is more important than ever. As more and more news organisations lay off staff journalists are finding the value of union representation. Here in Ireland many independent newsrooms don’t recognise unions but this situation hasn’t been helped by the reluctance of some entrants of the profession to join in the first place. Here endeth the lesson!
The Society of Authors The organisation for any writers published in the UK. Offers advice on contracts and legal matters as well as providing a wide range of information and deals for professional writers. Also publishes The Author Magazine for members.
The Irish Writers Union The professional body for writers in Ireland. Writing is a solitary profession so joining a professional body is undoubtedly a good idea.
Revenue On-line If you’re self employed and working in Ireland you can sign up for the Revenue On-line Service (ROS) to file your taxes on-line. You get extra time and they’ll do the sums for you. You can also download any information leaflets or forms from the website. Even if you’re on a contract it’s worth being familiar with what tax credits you can claim.
Inland Revenue If you’re working in the UK this is where you need to go to sort out your taxes and file on-line.
PLR The home for Public Lending Rights in Ireland. If you’ve published a book and it’s in Irish libraries you can now claim PLR payments. You can download forms from the website.
Authors Licensing and Collecting Agency If your book is in libraries anywhere else this is the crowd you need. They collect fees owing to agents and pay them out. Members of the Society of Authors get free membership. Everyone else pays £25.
SOCIAL NETWORKING & FORUMS
Boards.ie Ireland largest Internet forums you can find discussions on just about anything here. If you’re looking for someone to talk to for a story though be careful how you approach it. People get annoyed with journalists simply arriving and putting out a call for interviewees.
Twitter The microblogging site. If you track subjects that “trend” on Twitter using Twitter Search you can monitor fast breaking news stories in real time. There are also very real networking possibilities not to mention the social aspect! Just remember – it’s just one big conversation. Jump in and join it. My name’s @abigailrieley.
Facebook Needs little explanation but Facebook Groups and Pages are a good way of networking or finding out more about individuals, companies, events, movements etc, etc. For example the group Leave Conor Casby Alone quickly sprang up in the wake of the Picturegate scandal. Not to mention the recent story of the Irish “Jackal” shot dead for allegedly trying to assassinate the Bolivian president.
Bebo Here for the same reason as Facebook. It’s pretty inescapable these days. Apart from the Michael Dwyer Bolivia case there have been numerous other instances where Bebo has become part of the story because of the insight it can provide into the life (or death) of someone. The same goes for Myspace.
The Red Room A new social networking site for authors, journalists and anyone interested in the written word.
Radiowaves Forums Long running forum for the Irish radio community.
This is not a comprehensive list and will be added to as time goes on. Any suggestions are welcome.